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Paul Simon And Sting At Madison Square, Thursday, March 6th, Reviewed

Sting AT MSG

Sting AT MSG

Paul Simon was better than at his solo gig in 2012, maybe because he didn’t have to convince himself that So Beautiful, So What owned more than a couple of decent tracks and Sting was better than I’ve ever seen -a backhanded compliment if there ever was. Though comparisons to Simon And Garfunkel are ridiculous, Sting’s voice doesn’t touch the pristine soar of Art’s, it isn’t a complete mismatch. AND, Sting absolutely nails “America” and the jerkiness of the format, four songs by Sting, one together, four songs by Paul -so on and so forth, helps Sting immensely (by the time you’ve mustered the energy to leave, Paul is back).

All well and good. But it was still a bore and while it wasn’t a major bummer, it wasn’t very good either. I gave em 135 minutes and would have left earlier but I wanted to hear Simon’s take on “Mystery Train”. Though I’ve never much cared for “Hearts And Bones (“The arc of a love affair”? Who does he think he is, Woody Allen?) which it segues from, it was interesting to hear it performed without Presley’s aggressive moroseness.

That isn’t the problem, this is:

1. Sting is the worst major songwriter of all time.From the bland anthem “Brand New Day” to the bland reggae of “Roxanne”, he is unbearable. When he is good, “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” for instance, the verses are so busy (played in a minor key: kill me now) that it makes it a slog getting to the chorus. And when he is bad, Thursday a “The Hounds Of Winter” followed by “Driven To Tears” was a nadir not just of the night but the year, you want to walk out and never turn back till you reach the Pacific ocean.

2. In “45 Revolutions Per minute”, a music group on Facebook I belong to (our Steve Crawford is the curator), they recently had a thread on artists we were tred of. Paul Simon can make me weary. For all their myriad of gifts, “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover”, “Mother And Child Reunion” and especially “Still Crazy After All These Years”, the sort of song that reads like an inscription on a coffee mug at a souvenir store in deepest Florida, and quite a few others, bore me to death. It is not that Paul isn’t great, he sure is, it is that… well, it wore off. I’ve heard it too often, there is only so many times that solo sax break in “Crazy” can wow you.

3. I don’t know what fantasy world those writers at Stone and Times live in, but this concert was not comparable to Simon And Garfunkel at the same venue back in 2003; even if only (and there were many other reasons) because the Everly Brothers played a mini set in 03 and what price the Everly Brothers, right?

But really, despite Simon’s constant attempts, he is simply a little better when Art joins in. This would be a much better show if they had maintained the same format only substituted Art for Sting. Hell, it would’ve been a better set if they substituted Jello Biafra for Sting.

In the end, the voices come together on “Brand New day”, even a little better on “The Boxer” (another song I’m sick of), and it is quite amusing watching Sting gallant attempts at self-effacement during “Me And Julio Down By The School Yard”. But there is really no reason.

Which leads us to money.

Obviously, this is a business experiment more than a musical experiment. It is an attempt to sell out Arenas and as such has had some level of success and while we might all believe that the two classic rock stars are in it for more than the money, it is financially the experiment works. For all of Simon’s strengths, this meeting of minds does neither musician any musical dividends. Sting is too blancmange and antiseptic to signify and while Simon has his moments, he doesn’t have a hundred bucks for a nosebleed enough of them.

Their two bands are really good, they could substitute at Les Miserable no questions asked, but there is no alchemy here; the professionalism is so complete the bands seem like dusty relics, a perfect pitch togetherness where even the accordion on “That Was Your Mother” feels pre-ordained. It is like a jigsaw puzzle of “Sunflowers” -a replication of stuff, perfect but cold.

If Paul wants to make more money, tour with Garfunkel, and if Sting -who looks like he spends a lot of time working out,, wants more money, work for Chippindales.

“This conversation isn’t working out”, Simon claimed at some point. Amen to that.

Grade: C+

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